A leak at a nuclear power plant went undetected for weeks, allowing up to 2,000 gallons of oil to flow into Lake Michigan.
Staff at the Cook Nuclear Plant in Bridgman, Michigan first began actively looking for the leak December 17 after discovering that the oil level had declined in one of the facility’s turbine lube oil reservoirs. The turbine lube oil system contains about 25,000 gallons of hot, non-radioactive oil that runs across tubes and is cooled by the water of Lake Michigan. The leak allowed oil to run into one or more of the tubes and mix with the cooling water, ultimately washing into the lake.
By December 20, the cooler in question had been isolated and deactivated, though as of Tuesday, workers were still developing a repair plan and working to find the exact location of the leak.
Staff are not sure exactly when the leaking began, but determined through maintenance records that the earliest it could have started was October 25. Cook officials believe oil leaked at about 0.04 gallons per minute, compared to a total water discharge of 1.5 million gallons per minute.
Schalk said that environmental impact was a priority, but no cleanup was possible because the oil had dispersed by the time the leak was discovered.
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